AKLeg special session Day 6: Lawmakers say decision is clear
At a Senate Finance Committee meeting Thursday morning, Vincent Lee, the director of major projects development at TransCanada Corporation, told lawmakers his company wants to be bought out. He said TransCanada could no longer continue to vote in good faith on the project, knowing that the company is on its way out.
“We have been focusing with the administration on terminating,” Lee said.
When asked whether or not his company would pull out of the project if the Legislature decided not to approve funding for the project, Lee responded, “It’s possible.”
Some legislators say the decision on whether or not to fund the buyout, is clear.
“It’s a no brainer,” said Rep. David Guttenberg, of the House Finance Committee. “We’re better off without TransCanada.”
Majority and minority leaders of both caucuses expressed similar feelings today.
“TransCanada wants out quite obviously,” said Senate President Kevin Meyer. “It makes the most sense that we would go ahead and buy them out. Because if we force them to stay, what kind of a partnership would that be, and we’d have to pay quite a bit to keep them.”
Meyer said he expects to see the bill come to a vote on the Senate floor by early next week.
Senate Minority Leader Berta Gardner said she doesn’t think the bill will have any trouble passing once it does.
“I think it will pass easily, maybe even unanimously,” Gardner said, noting situations like the one the Legislature’s in now aren’t common. “There’s actually a good feeling in here when we can all come together on something that’s this important.”
Members of the House say they expect the Senate to pass the bill first, but aren’t far behind.
“If we get a bill from them, we’ll try to act on it and bring this special session to a close.” said House Speaker Mike Chenault.
Chenault said he doesn’t think the Legislature needed to have a special session on the question.
“We believe that the governor could have ended the partnership without the special session and could have asked for the money in a supplemental,” Chenault said.
Members of both the House and Senate seem to agree on letting TransCanada go, but say they’re still hesitant about how who will step into that role once the company is gone. That has some lawmakers changing their guess on when they’ll go home.
“I used to think Tuesday at the earliest,” said Rep. Chris Tuck, House Minority Leader. “Until yesterday’s hearings with questions on who’s in charge. I think people want to get down to the bottom of that.”
The governor put out an organizational chart earlier this week on the state’s leadership in the project, but some say there are so many people in leadership roles, that it’s not clear enough.
“There needs to be a coordinator for the whole project, where the Legislature and the people of Alaska know who’s in charge, and who to direct our questions to,” Chenault said. “So far no one has stepped forward from the administration and said, ‘I am he.’”
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